Tapanappa Foggy Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012 $51
Foggy Hill vineyard, Fleurieu Peninsula, South Australia
In 2003 Brian Croser planted three Dijon clones of pinot noir at around 350 metres altitude on the southern Fleurieu Peninsula. Elevation and proximity to the cold Southern Ocean give Croser’s Foggy Hill site a unique microclimate, dramatically cooler than the nearby shiraz country of McLaren Vale and Langhorne Creek – sufficiently so to give Croser great confidence in pinot noir. The vineyard’s pinots showed promise from the first vintage in 2007. But in the warm 2012 season, promise turns to excitement, with a slightly deeper, riper style than I’ve tasted in previous years. The underlying varietal flavour leans towards darker fruits like plum and cherry. This is overlaid with a subtly stalky touch, derived from the stems of whole-bunches, and the intriguing earthy–savoury notes of good pinot. The palate’s plush and generous and cut through with silky but quite firm tannins, setting the wine apart from many other Australian pinots.
Ten Minutes by Tractor Estate Chardonnay 2011 $42
Wallis and McCutcheon vineyards, Main Ridge,
Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
We’re spoiled for choice on top-notch Australian chardonnays for Christmas. From a wet, cool and latest harvest on Ten Minutes by Tractor’s record, comes this beautiful, elegant chardonnay. It was hand harvested in mid April, whole-bunch pressed and fermented by indigenous yeasts in a combination of new and older French oak barrels – where the wine matured for nine months, undergoing a malolactic fermentation and regular lees stirring. Mouth-watering white-peach-like varietal flavour provides the base for the wine, subtly supported by the textures and flavours of the barrel influence, and carried by zingy, fresh, natural acidity.
Quara Reserva Torrentes 2011 $23
Salta, Cafayate Valley, Argentina
Torrentes (full name torrentes riojano), a native of Argentina, is a natural cross between muscat of Alexandria and listan prieto. The muscat parent asserts it presence in this wine, imported by Canberra-based Alex Stojanov’s Latin Grapes. It’s highly aromatic, led by fruity muscat and cut by pleasant, fresh citrus-like flavours, before finishing off-dry with a tweak of tannin. This is far removed from most Australian table whites. But anyone familiar with moscato will recognise the presence of muscat in the flavour. Whether or not Australians take to the distinctive flavour remains to be seen. It’s available at Sage Restaurant ($49) and at latingrapes.com.au.
Pikes Impostores Savignan 2013 $20
Gill’s Farm block, Polish Hill River, Clare Valley, South Australia
“Impostores” refers to the mis-identification in Australian vineyards of savagnin – thought at the time of its planting to be Spain’s leading white variety, albarino. The two vines, however, appear similar and produce comparable wine styles. Neil Pike aggravates the confusion by spelling his wine “savignan” instead of the usual “savagnin”. But that’s of little concern as the wine provides a pleasantly tart, tangy, dry and savoury alternative to Australia’s usual fare of chardonnay, riesling, sauvignon blanc and semillon.
Tyrrell’s Lost Block Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 $17.99
McLaren Vale, South Australia
Tyrrell’s Lost Block wines deliver high quality regional specialties at a fair price. The range includes an Adelaide Hills sauvignon blanc, Hunter Valley semillon and chardonnay, Heathcote shiraz, Limestone Coast merlot and this McLaren Vale cabernet. Although shiraz is the Vale’s signature variety, its maritime climate also produces very good, well-defined cabernet. The 2012 vintage capture’s the variety’s ripe, juicy black and red currant flavours, seasoned with a lick of mint, so often seen in cabernet. It’s a vibrant, fruity style made for current drinking.
Trust Shiraz 2010 $28
Crystal Hill vineyard, Nagambie Lakes, Victoria
Don Lewis and Narelle King, the winemakers behind Victoria’s Tar and Roses label, made their first Trust shiraz in 2004. King writes, “The fruit is mostly from Don’s vineyard, Crystal Hill, a hungry bit of dirt riddled with ironstone and quartz across the river from Tahbilk. It’s very low yielding and produces pretty special wine”. Certainly it did in 2010 – a rich but medium-bodied red with deep, earthy–savoury flavours, sympathetically cut with oak flavours and with a load of chewy but soft tannins providing the satisfying structure and finish.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2013
First published 27 November 2013 in the Canberra Times